So I took a little break from writing reviews when life got busy for once… However, then I heard that Salman was going to be reviewing God of War and had a middling opinion of it… This rose me from my thousand year slumber beneath the ice… As Respawning’s resident Viking I couldn’t let this stand. So here I am. Sharpening my axe and staring at a picture of my enemy (Salman) ready to give you a review that actually matters. Seeing as its talking about a game that is clearly based on my life (Legit… Stop laughing)!
As soft reboots go 2018’s God of War had A LOT to live up to. Kratos being one of gaming’s recent icons and with a franchise of acclaimed games under their belts should have been enough to satisfy developers Santa Monica, but no. Like the titular character they had a drive to win. To push themselves and reinvent while keeping the spirit alive. God of War finds fake tan and god hater Kratos living a cosy life in Scandinavia with a nice cabin in the snowy woods with a son! Little Atreus. Starting off Kratos and Atreus hold a Viking funeral for wife and mother Faye and begin an adventure to spread her ashes from the highest peak. I won’t talk much about the story as it’s something you really do need to experience for yourself but I will say this is EASILY the most human Kratos has been. Previous games have just had out white and red rage machine yelling and slashing his way through all manner of problems without any real development which was fine for a while but this new fresh angle makes all the difference. Kratos is a lost father with a son he doesn’t really know or understand. Trying to teach him whilst also trying to just be dad it’s honestly painful to watch sometimes knowing that Kratos wants to say something. To open up and be a good father but his past prevents that.
A lot of this new deeper characterisation comes from the one take film style of storytelling with the camera never once cutting from Kratos and his boy and also the casting of Christopher Judge as the ghost of Sparta (You may know him as Teal’c from Stargate SG-1) who’s ability to convey rage and sorrow is incredible and makes for a very deep story telling experience.
Enough emotion though let’s talk about combat. Obviously being the God of War combat is Kratos’ bread and butter but its clear Santa Monica wanted to take it in a new direction with a step away from the button mashing hack and slash of previous games. Instead gameplay is in the over the shoulder style with a focus on thought out battle plans and dodge and block combos. Using the new Leviathan axe is immensely satisfying with each hit knocking the enemy around like ragdolls and the ability to throw it makes mid rage combat a breeze. After throwing the axe you can either recall it with a simple button tap or use Kratos massive fists and beat your enemies into a bloody pulp! This mixture of combat styles is seamless and makes everything you do look incredible and leaves you feeling like a god yourself! Though the difficulty has been ramped up from the older games its nothing a little trial and error won’t fix and you’ll soon find yourself learning to plan on the fly and defeat any threat you come across with just enough difficultly to keep things challenging and not soul destroying. A nice addition is in the form of Kratos’ red headed warrior son Atreus who throughout your battles will give advice on enemy attack patterns and with the press of a button will unleash arrows on your targets, stunning them and leaving them open for a good old fashioned axe to the dome.
As usual for God of War there’s also a fair amount of puzzle solving thrown into the mix with most storyline fights being broken up with some kind of puzzle. Most of which are solved by timing your axe throws so nothing too taxing!
Probably the biggest change comes from the shift from linear hack n slash to open world RPG. God of War takes place in a massive open Scandinavia with the environments changing drastically between each locale and presenting their own unique charm from the snowy woods of the early game to the mountain caves of the later story there’s always something pretty to look and with several side missions and an abundance of loot there are plenty of reasons to explore the wilds. There’s a real attention to detail and respect for Norse mythology that is plain to see and made the Viking in me really purr with so much lore available to read and even see. Atreus acts as the plays inquisitiveness always asking questions in the face of Kratos’ stoic indifference to fill in the blanks and his answers fill up the journal in the start menu with his own wit and charm.
Speaking of loot this is the first time in the franchise that Kratos is customisable outside of some skins. With all his armour and weapons being upgradeable and even Atreus having new outfits and bows make all that adventuring and collecting really worthwhile. The gear directly effects Kratos’ stats so its up to you how you build whether you focus on defence and dodging or out and out attack or a balance between the two.
So in summary God of War is a beautiful, emotional and exciting trip through Norse mythology with an attention to detail and character you just don’t see very often in triple A games. While the massive shift in style and storytelling was a huge risk for such an established franchise Santa Monica have really done the character justice and refreshed the series without alienating the core fan base or scaring away new players. As a gamer and a wannabe Viking this is easily my current contender for game of the year and definitely one of the highlights of the generation.
God of War gets 10 / 10 from me!
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